Abu Dis, Container (Wadi Nar), Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Sheikh Saed, Wed 10.6.09, Morning
Netanya G., Shira V. (reportiing)
6:50 Zeitim Crossing
An extremely long line -- dozens waiting outside the checkpoint's outer turnstile. We asked around, and those who had crossed reported angrily about waiting between 2 - 2 1/2 hours, an unconscionable length of time. According to their reports, three corridors were open (we did not enter, not wanting to impede crossing), and every so often shouting was heard on the loudspeaker system. After about an hour (the time we spent there), the line grew shorter, as did the time of crossing.
People arrived from all over -- Kalandia, Bethlehem, and the El-Azaria area. When we inquired about the reasons for the usual crush, some attributed it to the "big mess" in Kalandia due to the changing of the guard at the checkpoint there. An inside inquiry with our parallel shift in Kalandia revealed something else: they said there was no "mess" and that it was a relatively "easy day". Since we had heard from several people that the congestion was due to the changing of the guard, we think that the difference between the reports we heard and those of our shift there was due to the fact that in recent days (not just today), personnel changes at various checkpoints across the area had caused people to avoid crossing at Kalandia, and search for other points to cross.
For future attention: follow up the situation at the Zeitim Crossing in the mornings, to find out if the unusual congestion repeats itself. And also, try to get an "overview" of the situation at the three terminals in the mornings, by getting in touch with our other shifts.
8:20 Sheikh Saed
While still at the Zeitim Crossing we received reports from the residents that there is a new officer who refuses to let the children cross, and requires them to show documents.
When we arrived, the checkpoint was empty; just then a child without documents tried to cross and the commander sent him back. In the background cries were heard on the loudspeakers ordering this or that vehicle to remove itself from the sterile area of the checkpoint -- something unusual, I thought, for what I know of this checkpoint. Meanwhile, some youths at the improvised transportation point inside the neighbourhood (not far from the checkpoint) told us that since the morning, the soldiers have been playing "cat and mouse" with them; each time they bring some provisional sofa to sit on in the waiting area, they are forced to send it back. We saw such a performance with our own eyes: the youths brought the sofa and the soldiers immediately ordered it moved back. We spoke with the Civil Administration (there's a new officer) and told them what we had seen.
We tried talking to the officer, A., who said he was not new, and got the routine answers about security considerations and the sterile area which prevents the youths from "spying on the checkpoint." Likewise with respect to the children -- without a document he does not let them cross. While talking, we were able to observe an entirely different situation in which the officer was required to exercise judgement about letting someone cross, and we were impressed with his decision. It will be interesting to track his management of the checkpoint in the coming days if he is still there.
While talking to the youths, one of them drove us to the only (very poor) road connecting the neightbourhood to the world.
9:00 Wadi Nar
The checkpoint was fairly empty. There were random and fairly frequent checks of transits which were speedily released.
On the way, between the new Kidron and the Na"hal settlement, on the northern part of the road, we saw the construction of a new route parallel to the road. We informed the Peace Now team. We saw a work-caravan and some other improvised installation. We were unable to find out the meaning of this development.